The Commonplace Book of Sir John Strangways (1645-1666)

The Commonplace Book of Sir John Strangways (1645-1666)

The Commonplace Book of Sir John Strangways (1645-1666)

The Commonplace Book of Sir John Strangways (1645-1666)

Excerpt

Sir John Strangways (1585–1666) left a relatively full record of his long public life, as documented in numerous parliamentary records and other accounts. His political career began when James I had been on the throne of England less than a full decade, and it ended with his death about a half decade after the restoration of Charles II. During the tumultuous 1640s, however, Strangways was moved to compose the much more inwardly-directed commonplace entries and poems that make up this volume, writings which form a very different sort of life record. Though I believe that he was principally motivated to write by the catastrophic political events of the 1640s rather than by his own internal impulses, as many theorists have demonstrated in recent years, the public and private worlds cannot be easily separated. Instead, these spheres of experience inform each other in sometimes overt, but usually covert, complex, and subtle ways that make a record such as the one presented here an especially interesting and important kind of document.

Using Dorset Record Office sources, J. P. Ferris correctly gives Strangways’s date of birth as 1585, pace Mary Freer Keeler in her The Long Parliament, 1640–41: A Biographical Study of Its Members (Philadelphia: The American Philosophical Society, 1954), 353. See J. P. Ferris, “Strangways, Sir John,” The House of Commons, ed. Basil Duke Henning, 3 vols. (London: Seeker & Warburg, for The History of Parliament Trust, 1983), 3:498–99.

See, for example, Stephen Greenblatt’s seminal Renaissance Self-Fashioning (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1980). Greenblatt’s study has become something of a locus classicus for theorizing this intersection between public and private, generating an extensive literature on the subject of selfhood. See also Francis Barker, The Tremulous Private Body: Essays on Subjection (Ann Arbor, Mich.: University of Michigan Press, 1984), as well as the shorter discussions by Peter Burke, “Representations of the Self From Petrarch to Descartes,” and Jonathan Sawday, “Self and Selfhood in the Seventeenth Century,” both in Roy Porter, ed., Rewriting the Self: Histories from the Renaissance to the Present (London and New York: Routledge, 1997), 17–28, 29–48.

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